Commonwealth v. Pacheco

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court revisited cell site location information (CSLI) and the United States Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Carpenter in holding that orders issued by a trial court that authorized the disclosure of the defendant’s CSLI were the functional equivalent of search warrants and must comport with the Fourth Amendment. Since the orders here were constitutionally sound, they were issued correctly. The Commonwealth suspected the defendant transported drugs for a cartel. The Montgomery Co. District Attorney’s Office applied for multiple orders pursuant to Subchapter E of the Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act, 18 Pa.C.S. §§ 5701-82, which permits tracking of the location of a mobile phone or similar device. The defendant moved to suppress CSLI gathered according to those orders, claiming the Commonwealth was obliged to secure search warrants. The Supreme Court held that Carpenter’s warrant requirement for collecting historical CSLI, which provides “a comprehensive chronicle of the user’s past movements,” applies with equal force to the collection of real-time CSLI in the instant case. The Supreme Court held that the Commonwealth satisfied the strictures of the Fourth Amendment when seeking the orders. Thus they acted like search warrants, and the ensuing search was lawful.

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